Daily news summary News of Radio Prague

18-09-2003

Government approves 2004 state budget

The government has approved next year's state budget. The final version envisages a deficit of 115 billion crowns, less than the originally proposed figure of 118 billion. The cabinet also allotted an extra 8 billion crowns which the Finance Ministry found in its reserves. The extra money will go towards the education system, agriculture, transport infrastructure and scientific research. Cabinet ministers originally demanded 40 billion on top of the previously approved budget framework. Finance Minister Bohumil Sobotka said the budget was directly linked with a package of fiscal reform proposals and is dependent on those reforms being approved by parliament.

Association of Independent Unions plans general strike

The country's second largest trade union organisation, the Association of Independent Unions has announced it is preparing a general strike in November in protest at the government-proposed reform of public finances. The Association said it will call on the largest trade union organisation, the Czech and Moravian Confederation of Trade Unions to officially join the preparations. Trade unions say the planned reform will harm the country's poorest.

Czech premier backs Latvia EU vote, seeking small-state unity

Czech Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla has paid a two-day visit to Latvia to support the Latvian government's campaign for a "yes" vote in an upcoming referendum on EU accession. He also met with Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberg and Premier Einars Repse. Latvia is the last country to hold a referendum on joining the European Union. Over the past year, Latvia and the Czech Republic have strengthened their trade and diplomatic ties. The Prague government last year helped Riga gain membership in NATO and the two countries are members of the so-called group of "like-minded" countries that are seeking changes in the proposed EU constitution to grant small countries more rights.

Former Central European leaders rally support for Cuban dissidents

Three leaders of Central Europe's peaceful transition from communism to democracy have called on Europe and the United States to lobby for the release of 75 Cuban dissidents jailed last year for pro-democracy activism by Cuban leader Fidel Castro. In an open letter, dissident leader of the Czechoslovak "Velvet Revolution" and former Czech president Vaclav Havel, Hungary's former president Arpad Goncz and Poland's Solidarity-era leader and ex-president Lech Walesa rallied support for the dissidents jailed for up to 28 years for their role in organizing the pro-democracy "Vareli" petition. The three former presidents see little sense in the long-standing U.S. trade embargo against Cuba. They also urge European leaders to unequivocally condemn the Castro administration.

Czech president sees end to border restrictions in three years

Czech President Vaclav Klaus said he was confident border restrictions could fall within two years after the Czech Republic joins the European Union. Speaking in Passau, Germany, on Wednesday, Mr Klaus said lowering border restrictions had a higher priority than adopting the single European currency. Mr. Klaus was in Passau for a discussion on EU expansion along with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, former Polish President Lech Walesa and Hungarian Parliamentary Speaker Katalin Szili.

Weather

Friday is expected to be partly cloudy with daytime temperatures ranging from 24 to 27 degrees Celsius in Bohemia. In Moravia temperatures should reach up to 30 degrees Celsius.

18-09-2003